Population Health Demands Clearer Standards for Radiology

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , July 18, 2013

Several years ago NCH changed its radiology program to improve data collection and quality enhancements through a partnership with Radisphere. Before that move, "we literally didn't have any quality parameters, not at all," Weiss recalls.

Now, radiologists are "getting rewarded not for more procedures, but for the right ones…We're ordering fewer procedures and [fewer] tests," he says.

OK, but is it working? "Reimbursements are going down dramatically," Weiss confirms.

As Weiss and Neal see it, radiology has become a forgotten "outlier" in discussions about reducing healthcare costs and improving quality of care. A Radisphere study found radiology "lags substantially behind" other health care practices for improved quality standards.

While many call the healthcare industry fragmented, radiology is especially so, they say. There are more than 25,000 radiologists in private practice there are at least 2,000 radiology groups.

Yet radiology has great potential. The Advisory Board estimates that radiology will grow at a 9% rate annually, and high tech imaging will grow faster, at an 18% rate, according to Radisphere. Radiology represents nearly 10% of U.S. commercial healthcare spending each year, equating to more than $200 billion in annual spending.

As systems move toward population health, radiology will play an increasingly important role, Everett says. "It has a tremendous impact on the metrics everyone cares about, including: 'Are we radiating folks with too much radiation? How do we get costs under control?'"

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